SHE’S PROFESSOR, ENTREPRENEUR
By day, Bethany Marx teaches costume design at SUNY Oneonta’s Theater Department.
But with a sprinkle of fairy dust – and a lot of glitter and sequins – she becomes the Hill City Ice Queen, Otsego County’s very own princess.
“When I moved here in August 2015, someone put me in touch with Carol Mandigo, and I wore my Elsa costume to Balloon Fest,” she said. “Now I’ve got seven employees, and we do 14 different characters.”
Marx first got started on a whim, after she helped a friend make an Anna costume for Halloween in Fairbanks, Alaska, where she was living.
“I got a random phone call from this trick-or-treat event that had advertised as having ‘Frozen’ characters – except their Olaf costume wouldn’t arrive in time. They asked if I could be Elsa so their advertising would still be right.”
After meeting more than 200 kids in an hour, she got a phone call from parents who asked if she could repeat the performance at a birthday party.
“I learned some songs and did a craft project with the kids, and when I left, the dad told me, ‘You should be charging more,’” she said. “I called my friend and said, ‘We could do this.’”
She did parties around Fairbanks for nearly a year before moving to Oneonta, where she founded Hill City Ice Queen Princess Parties, which includes “Princess Beauty,” “Arabian Princess,” “The Snow Sisters,” The Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, Cinderella and other fairy tale characters.
Word got around quickly, and now she’s a frequent fixture at First Night, Winter Carnival and other local events, as well as plenty of parties.
“I did one as Princess Beauty, where I hung out with this little girl, and she sat in my lap and showed me all her toys and we sang together,” she said. “Her dad was home, and at one point, he went upstairs and didn’t come back down.”
She finished her visit, and when she got home, she had an email from the mom, explaining that there had been a sudden death in the family the night before. “She told me she shared all the pictures of us with her family, and that they made everybody smile on a day when no one felt like smiling.”
Marx makes all the costumes, including masks that match their characters outfits, and, when the occasion calls for it, clever layering.
“Last year at the Christmas Tree Lighting, it was 17 degrees,” she said. “I’ve got the leggings that I wear for Elsa, but there’s usually one or two pairs of leggings underneath that!”
At a Princess Party, the princesses will sing, sign autographs and pose for pictures, and do a craft with the guests.
“I want my princesses to have a performance background, especially improv,” she said. “You get asked a lot of questions, so you have to really know the character, the lines they say in the movie, the foods they like.”
And some babysitting doesn’t hurt either. “Half the job is controlling a party of small kids,” she said. “If you can’t do that, it doesn’t matter how pretty your singing voice is.”
But the princesses do more than meet-and-greets.
Some, like the Scottish princess, do sword-fighting shows, and for the past two years, her girls have offered “Princess Caroling” in the Albany area, where many of the girls live.